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Summary Report for:
19-2012.00 - Physicists

Conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.

Sample of reported job titles: Health Physicist, Scientist, Research Scientist, Physicist, Research Consultant, Research Physicist, Biophysics Scientist

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Tasks  |  Tools & Technology  |  Knowledge  |  Skills  |  Abilities  |  Work Activities  |  Work Context  |  Job Zone  |  Education  |  Credentials  |  Interests  |  Work Styles  |  Work Values  |  Related Occupations  |  Wages & Employment  |  Job Openings  |  Additional Information

Tasks

  • Perform complex calculations as part of the analysis and evaluation of data, using computers.
  • Describe and express observations and conclusions in mathematical terms.
  • Analyze data from research conducted to detect and measure physical phenomena.
  • Report experimental results by writing papers for scientific journals or by presenting information at scientific conferences.
  • Design computer simulations to model physical data so that it can be better understood.
  • Collaborate with other scientists in the design, development, and testing of experimental, industrial, or medical equipment, instrumentation, and procedures.
  • Direct testing and monitoring of contamination of radioactive equipment, and recording of personnel and plant area radiation exposure data.
  • Observe the structure and properties of matter, and the transformation and propagation of energy, using equipment such as masers, lasers, and telescopes to explore and identify the basic principles governing these phenomena.
  • Develop theories and laws on the basis of observation and experiments, and apply these theories and laws to problems in areas such as nuclear energy, optics, and aerospace technology.
  • Teach physics to students.

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Tools & Technology

Tools used in this occupation:

Frequency analyzers — Analog frequency analyzers; Portable fast Fourier transform FFT analyzers; Spectrum analyzers; Two-channel fast Fourier transform FFT analyzers
Lasers — Argon ion lasers; Diode lasers; Single frequency dye lasers; Zeeman split lasers
Mobile or transportable medical linear accelerators — Cyclotrons; High-energy accelerators; Linear accelerators; Positive ion accelerators
Signal generators — Arbitrary function generators; Function generators; Optical detectors; Radiofrequency RF generators
Spectrometers — Gamma ray spectrometers; High-resolution spectrometers; Prism spectrometers; Visible spectrometers

Technology used in this occupation:

Analytical or scientific software — CERN Physics Analysis Workstation PAW; COMSOL Multiphysics; Spectral Dynamics STAR; Vector Fields OPERA-3d
Computer aided design CAD software — Autodesk AutoCAD software; Mathsoft Mathcad; RibbonSoft QCad
Development environment software — C; Formula translation/translator FORTRAN; Microsoft Visual Basic; Pascal
Graphics or photo imaging software — Adobe Systems Adobe Photoshop software; GNU Image Manipulation Program GIMP *; Xfig; XV
Object or component oriented development software — Microsoft Visual C++; Practical extraction and reporting language Perl; Python; Sun Microsystems Java

* Software developed by a government agency and/or distributed as freeware or shareware.

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Knowledge

Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Computers and Electronics — Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

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Skills

Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.

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Abilities

Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).

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Work Activities

Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
Interacting With Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.

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Work Context

Electronic Mail — 77% responded “Every day.”
Face-to-Face Discussions — 72% responded “Every day.”
Structured versus Unstructured Work — 61% responded “A lot of freedom.”
Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 79% responded “Every day.”
Telephone — 56% responded “Every day.”
Freedom to Make Decisions — 60% responded “A lot of freedom.”
Duration of Typical Work Week — 71% responded “More than 40 hours.”
Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 49% responded “Very important.”
Contact With Others — 40% responded “Constant contact with others.”
Work With Work Group or Team — 46% responded “Very important.”

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Job Zone

Title Job Zone Five: Extensive Preparation Needed
Education Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).
Related Experience Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.
Job Training Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.
Job Zone Examples These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include librarians, lawyers, sports medicine physicians, wildlife biologists, school psychologists, surgeons, treasurers, and controllers.
SVP Range (8.0 and above)

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Education


Percentage of Respondents
Education Level Required
29   Post-doctoral training
23   Doctoral degree
22   Master's degree

This occupation may require a background in the following science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational disciplines:

Mathematics — Theoretical and Mathematical Physics
Physics/Astronomy — Acoustics; Astronomy and Astrophysics; Astrophysics; Atomic/Molecular Physics; Elementary Particle Physics; Health/Medical Physics (see all 13 programs)

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Credentials

Find Training Find Certifications Find Licenses

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Interests

Interest code: IR

Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

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Work Styles

Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.

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Work Values

Recognition — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.

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Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2013) $52.94 hourly, $110,110 annual
State wages Local Salary Info
 
Employment (2012) 21,000 employees
Projected growth (2012-2022) Average (8% to 14%) Average (8% to 14%)
Projected job openings (2012-2022) 7,200
State trends Employment Trends
 
Top industries (2012)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 wage data external site and 2012-2022 employment projections external site. "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2012-2022). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

  • Physicists and Astronomers external site. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

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